AMONG the numerous threads feeding day by day into the uneven fabric of Sino-Japanese history one glowing strand is never lost. It is described somewhat tritely by rulers of both countries as The Red Menace. It is so clearly of importance in the present Sino-Japanese crisis that it needs to be closely examined. About the pivotal idea of fan-kung, or "counter-communism," may turn the fate of all China.

Although the Japanese desire to "coöperate" with Nanking has often found expression in demands for a Sino-Japanese understanding against communist intrusions, the project of an anti-Red alliance was not given recognition as an organic part of Japan's China policy until last autumn. It was done then with the formulation of the Three Points of Mr. Hirota, at that time Japanese Foreign Minister, today Premier of his country.

The Hirota program defined Japan's requirements in China in the following order: (1) the abandonment by China of "her policy of playing one foreign country against another," and positive demonstrations by Nanking, affecting all phases of Chinese life, of a sincere desire to coöperate with Japan; (2) "recognition by Nanking of the existence of Manchukuo," and the realization of a Japan-China-Manchukuo economic bloc; (3) "formation of a common front against the Chinese communists and the further extension of Red Influence in China."

In the tradition of Oriental diplomacy, the last item is the most heavily freighted with meaning. The other two are complementary. Neither of them can be realized with any degree of permanence or security without the third. The Red power in China, with all its internal potentialities, and with the prospect it offers of a close union between Soviet China and the U. S. S. R., now constitutes a major obstacle in the path of Japanese imperialism.

It seems probable that when Sino-Japanese negotiations reach a critical moment we shall hear less and less about formal recognition of Manchukuo, or even about the three-partite economic agreement as an independent principle. Japan's determination on these issues may gracefully bend within the arc of diplomatic manœuvre. Her insistence upon point three, however, is unlikely to diminish in any respect. Confirmation of this was given in the recent military demonstration in Tokyo. For the third point is the Army's point. Evidence is abundant to show that when the General Staff compromised on Hirota as Admiral Okada's successor it was with the understanding that he would not delay in attempting to consummate the anti-Red alliance.

The public statements of leading Japanese are in harmony with this view. In his first official statement, issued shortly after being received in Imperial audience as Premier, Hirota reiterated his intention to enforce the three-point program. When Mr. Arita took over the portfolio of Foreign Minister, he seconded his chief's statement with the comment that the primary purpose of his diplomacy would be "to seek the realization of Sino-Japanese joint action against the communists." Significant also were the remarks of General Count Hisaichi Terauchi, Minister of War, at the opening meeting of the new Army-made Cabinet, held over the grave of Japanese liberalism. The General frankly expressed his wish to begin at once "the enforcement of joint defensive action by Japan, Manchukuo and China against the infiltration of Red troops into North China." In Peiping about the same time, General Kenji Doihara, nimblest-witted of the empire-makers, told the writer that it was not only Japan's right but "her duty and responsibility to extirpate communism in China and preserve peace and order in East Asia," because, you see, communism is "fundamentally opposed to our Oriental ideas," and troubles the progress of Sino-Japanese coöperation. When in April General Koryo Matsumuro arrived in Peiping he brought correspondents this cheerful statement: "The Japanese Empire is ready to pay any price, to make any sacrifice, that may be necessary . . . in saving the country [China] and defending it against communism." Finally, the signing of the mutual-defense protocol between Outer Mongolia and the U. S. S. R. has given a stern note of urgence to Japanese demands for joint operations (in the words of Mr. Arita) "to save the Orient from the danger of being overwhelmed by bolshevik influence."

These and similar pronouncements indicate the vehicle in which the Japanese militarists hope to ride into China. They see that the anti-Red principle provides, for the first time, a meeting ground for the class interests common to themselves and to the Chinese compradores who influence Nanking. By skilful use of the fan-kung motto they hope to: (a) solve important problems in continental strategy presented by the Soviet penetration of Sinkiang and Outer Mongolia; (b) achieve political, military, economic and cultural "coordination" between China, Japan and Manchukuo; and (c) gradually impose de facto suzerainty over the whole of China, without provoking further international complications for the Japanese Government.

Let us see what the Japanese would like the anti-communist agreement to embrace eventually. In the domain of military action they want legalized access "in emergencies" to the ports, rivers and the strategic centers of China. The agreement would naturally mean the appointment of numerous Japanese military experts and technicians. Japanese munitions would be used wherever possible, as in Manchuria before 1931. Japanese officers would be engaged in various branches of the Chinese army, including aviation. Replacement of the present German advisers to the Chinese General Staff would be considered imperative.

Strategically it would mean, of course, regardless of whether or not a written pact were brought into existence, the beginning of joint preparations in Tokyo and Nanking for war against the U. S. S. R. In all probability the Japanese would at first concentrate their activity along the frontiers of northwest China and Inner Mongolia, laying down and fortifying air bases, and digging deep into the southern flank of Outer Mongolia and the eastern flank of Turkestan. With the conclusion of the Russo-Mongol alliance these preparations become more immediately necessary. If China's air fleet were made available to Japanese command, the bases could be used for raids that might strike decisive blows at the industrial plant and communications of Siberia and vitiate the offensive power of the Russian Army in the East.

Economically, the Japanese envisage a number of advantages in a joint anti-Red agreement. Japanese loans or credits would be made on a large scale to support Nanking's program of reconstruction and to finance its campaigns against the increasing "Red remnants" -- for which enterprise, at the moment, no other foreign help is perceptible to Chiang Kai-shek. He would give security by mortgaging to Japanese financiers important remaining Chinese raw materials such as iron and coal, to pay for goods furnished by semi-government heavy industries of Japan, and by committing China to a policy of economic collaboration with Japan to the virtual exclusion of the Western Powers. This would mean the execution of the Amau Statement of 1934. Special arrangements would be made for the triangular trade of China, Manchukuo and Japan. In particular, economic coöperation between Japan and North China would become closer. In exchange for the latter's cotton, for example, Japan might be expected to contribute the war materials and money by which the northern militarists would disperse the Chinese Reds in the direction of Outer Mongolia and Sinkiang.

Culturally, ideologically, the effects of an anti-Red pact would, the Japanese hope, be far-reaching. Inherent in the Hirota program is the desire to exclude all "dangerous thoughts" from the curriculum now offered in the more advanced government colleges, universities and middle schools. This means an even stricter regimentation of thought than has yet been enforced by the sub-fascist dictatorship of Marshal Chiang. Its aim, from the Japanese standpoint, would be the Manchukuo and East Hopei ideal, with emphasis on Confucianism, the political philosophy of Wang An-Shih, and Wang Tao -- which furnish the common ideological basis for Japan's "Kingly Way" in Manchukuo and Chiang Kai-shek's "New Life Movement" in China. Control of public opinion, with extreme penalties for all transgressors against "Sino-Japanese friendship," would obviously be necessary. We should probably see the formation of anti-communist associations, such as now exist in autonomous East Hopei, to fight the present anti-Japanese national liberation associations which flourish despite Nanking's efforts to suppress them.

If an anti-Red agreement were reached with Japan, China's international position would be much altered. The Chinese Government's hands would be virtually tied in the event of a Japanese clash with a third Power. Occidental sympathy for Nanking would tend to dissolve: the world in general would lose interest in the fate of a government which accepted nominal existence by the grace of an invader and used the latter's forces against a section of its own people in revolt. We know that precisely this kind of thing has happened several times in Chinese history.

Marshal Chiang could probably resign himself to all these implications, as the price of making peace with Japan, were it not for the internal difficulties which he would encounter. The Western Powers have after all done nothing to preserve him except to sell him munitions and airplanes and pilots in exchange for his peasants' good silver. Geneva's support proved only of sentimental value. It does not answer the question in Chiang's mind: "Who is going to come to my rescue if I go to war with Japan rather than submit?" The lifeline of rhetoric thrown out by the League to Haile Selassie cannot much encourage the Marshal.

If the Reds in China were really only the "bloodthirsty bandits" described by Kuomintang propaganda, if they did not comprise a deepening and broadening opposition to the Nanking régime, if they did not express the growing political will of the Chinese masses, Marshal Chiang could, as a manœuvre, accept Hirota's Third Point without grave consequences. The breathing spell thus attained might be held to be worth the sacrifices. The Japanese program would take several years to mature. If Chiang meanwhile could strengthen and consolidate his own command he might with some reason hope for a major change in world forces that would give him an opportunity to recover and perhaps to face Japan. But the difficulties of this course are clear. Any tactical advantages gained by temporary submission to Japan would be more than offset now by the mortal weakening -- if not the prompt collapse -- of Nanking's power.

In that event the Chinese Red Army and the Communist Party would become the decisive military and political factors in China. Nothing would more clearly expose the fundamental character and limitations of the Nanking government than a further sacrifice of national sovereignty under the guise of Sino-Japanese joint action against communism. The fact is that recent developments have bestowed upon the Chinese communists an important power of initiative in determining national policies. The Red Army is already in many ways a serious contender with Nanking for national leadership. And it probably is still far from its maximum influence.

This conclusion is not reached alone on the basis of the recent Red offensives in Shansi, Shensi, Suiyuan and Kweichow, nor on the astounding spread of partisan warfare in many distressed agrarian areas. With regard to the extent and importance of territory occupied, of total fighters mobilized, of equipment, organization and command, the Reds still offer only a secondary military challenge, whatever their political importance. But in the national crisis provoked by the Japanese advance, the Reds see a chance of vastly increasing their following. As Wang Ming said in his recent speech before the congress of the Comintern, of all the armed forces in China "only the Red Army comes out openly under the slogan of 'national-revolutionary war of the armed people against Japanese imperialism, in defense of the integrity, independence and unification of China.'"

But do the Reds really mean it? Would they really fight Japan if they were in power, as increasing thousands of students, intellectuals and members of the petite bourgeoisie now seem to believe? The writer inclines to give an affirmative reply. The rôle of the Communist Party as an active political and military rival to Nanking resides in its ability and will to carry through the creative regeneration of the Chinese masses. This premises a condition of national freedom. Without it the Reds have no function. Therefore, to the extent to which they succeed in leading the struggle not only for social and economic but also for national liberation, depends the validity of their claims to power. The Communist Party, which directs the Red Army, today sees very clearly that "only by a general mobilization of the entire Chinese people for a national-revolutionary struggle against imperialism," and only by the use of the "tactics of the anti-imperialist united front," can it hope to achieve its ideological aims. For the communists there is nothing to be lost by a war with Japan, and there is a socialist world to be won. For the warlords, on the contrary, there is everything to be lost, and nothing to be won but honorable mention in history.

This has been true since 1931, but several new phenomena make it truer than ever today.

First, the communists profoundly believe that the Kuomintang has lost not only its revolutionary impetus but also its remaining nationalistic character, and that this fact allows them to undertake the joint development of national and class liberation. Out of this thesis has come the present strategy of proposing "to the entire Chinese people, to all parties, groups, troops, mass organizations, and all prominent political and social leaders that they participate jointly with us in organizing an All-Chinese united people's government of national defense."

Secondly, many leading Chinese are now convinced that only by a strong alliance with Soviet Russia can China hope to survive in the contest against Japanese imperialism, and that such an alliance would become possible only under the leadership, or at least only after the legalization of, the Chinese Communist Party.

Thirdly, the Red Armies under Mao Tse-tung, Pang Teh-huai and Liu Tze-tan have expanded from Shensi far into neighboring Shansi, and partisan warfare and propagandizing is occurring in southern Suiyuan. Both these provinces are adjacent to Hopei and Chahar, which Japan now regards as her semi-protectorate. This situation suggests the possibility in the near future of a direct conflict between the Japanese "guest troops" and the "Red bandits." The most effective propaganda used by the Reds in Shansi called upon the provincial troops to "give the People's National Liberation Red Army a pathway to fight the Imperialist invaders." It seems to be definitely on the communist program to attack the Japanese troops now in occupation of Chahar and northern Hopei.

Suppose that happens? Suppose the Reds break through the walls of government troops now carefully separating them from the Japanese? Suppose they send off a column across northern Suiyuan and Chahar and establish contact with a source of supplies in Outer Mongolia? Or across Kansu and Chinghai to connect with the U. S. S. R. through Sinkiang? And suppose that Japan sends a punitive expedition deep into China against them? If at that moment a fan-kung agreement exists between Chiang Kai-shek and the Japanese, Chiang would be obligated to continue his own campaigns against the Reds in coöperation with his allies. But this procedure would invite disaffections which might permanently undermine his command.

There is no question that if the Chinese Red Army comes into serious contact with the Japanese its prestige would ascend more rapidly than did that of the 19th Route Army in Shanghai. This increased popularity would not be confined to students, intellectuals, and politically-conscious peasants and workers, as at present, but would draw enthusiasts from sections of the petite bourgeoisie and even the national bourgeoisie, who have already felt the economic, social and political effects of Japanese operations in Manchuria and China. And it must be remembered that all those elements are represented in Nanking's soldiery. It would therefore appear fatal for Chiang Kai-shek to throw an army against the back of the Reds rather than against the Japanese, once these had come into conflict and once the Reds had clearly demonstrated their readiness to defend the national interests against Japanese imperialism.

If the analysis is correct, what will Chiang Kai-shek do? It is impossible to examine his past conduct in detail here; but we may draw upon it for a certain amount of guidance in interpreting his feelings at the present time. It seems likely that he will find further pretexts to postpone a Sino-Japanese "settlement," but that when menaced he probably will agree to negotiate on the basis of the Hirota formula. The conferences will be prolonged as much as possible. In the end he will refuse to sign any treaty on the Hirota basis. That will not rule out the possibility of a verbal agreement, or something on the order of the Ho-Umetsu understanding -- which is, however, extremely unlikely to satisfy the Japanese. Chiang will then face the consequences of his position, which in this case will mean the definite detachment of North China above the Yellow River and the creation of a second Manchukuo. Chiang himself will not sanction this, but will again shift the responsibility to the northern militarists.

Meanwhile it will be imperative for Chiang to continue with the only positive side of his policy -- the relentless suppression of the communists. During the coming months he is likely to make a supreme effort to annihilate the Red Army as a military factor in China. He still seems to believe this possible. As his whole strategy in this stage is to avoid the making of a "premature" decision, he cannot afford to run the risk of having his ten-year enemies, the communists, force this decision on him by precipitating the war with Japan which he is sacrificing so much to delay. He showed his determination to prevent this at all costs when he rushed heavy forces into Shansi to restrain only 20,000 Red Army troops whose phenomenal drive threatened to carry them into Hopei and into conflict with the Japanese.

With the amputation of North China, however, Chiang Kaishek will have exhausted his sphere of manœuvre. If he is able to live through this period without being overthrown from within, without losing important forces to the side of the "anti-Japanese Red Army," then the next stage will be framed in terms of inescapable war or submission. Until the eleventh hour he will wait for Japan to sink into the Pacific, or go to war with Russia, or with America, or . . . But when the bombs begin dropping at his feet it is possible to believe that he will fight.

There remains, however, the possibility that the Chinese Red Army may deprive him of that last power of decision. If it does, then Chiang will be left nothing but the direct and open choice which he has adroitly avoided until now, the choice inexorably posed in Hirota's Third Point: Japan, and the preservation of capitalism, but the loss of China's independence; or communism, and the end of capitalism, but China still sovereign.

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  • EDGAR SNOW, for seven years an American journalist in China; now Peiping correspondent of the London Daily Herald; author of "Far Eastern Front"
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